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The News Reader Peril:
Information Overload

News readers allow you to effectively assemble a personal newspaper from the Net.

And while sites offering news feeds aren't universal, the growth of blogs and easy-to-build RSS syndication over the last few years means there are now a bewildering array of choices available on almost any topic you can name.

This trend that's only going to continue expanding over time.

The drawback of extensively subscribing to news feeds, though, is simple: information overload.

Depending on how many sites you subscribe to and the volume of updates that each of those sites generates, it's very easy to build a personal newspaper so big that you'll never have time to get through it all.

And the answer to this problem - as it is with so many other things in life - is to use newsreader subscriptions in moderation.

You should also rigidly prune your subscriptions if the volume of information being pulled into your newsreader exceeds the amount of time you can devote to viewing it.

A good subdirectory system (ie where you file particular stories or podcasts into particular subdirectories) can also be a help.

But if you haven't looked over some (or all) of your subscribed feeds in a long time, then deleting those feeds is the ultimate solution.

Other News Reader Resources

 

News Readers
Background: A news reader (sometimes known as a feed reader, an RSS feed reader, a feed aggregator or simply an aggregator) is a software or web-based application that collects syndicated content from the web (like news headlines, news stories, blog posts or podcasts) and puts them into a single area for easy viewing, in much the same way that an email program collects and presents your emails.

News readers can greatly reduce the amount of time and effort you need to put in if you regularly check a group of favourite web sites for updates, and they're particularly popular with anyone who has to monitor lots of sites on a regular basis.

News readers have been built into the latest versions of the Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera browsers as well as Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird.

And for people who live their lives on the move, there are now also web-based news readers (like Google Reader or Bloglines, both reviewed below) which perform the same work as a news reader running off your hard drive but which store their results on the Net so that you can access your news feeds from wherever you can get access to a web browser.

Even so, many people prefer a separate, stand-alone news reader to one that's included with their everyday software because dedicated newsreaders can often offer options or facilities that "one size fits all" newsreaders can't.

And if you're one of those people, then here are six first-rate and completely free news readers that we think are worth your consideration:

 

Popular News Readers
BlogBridge
If you're a fan of blogs (where RSS feeds are common) or your job requires you to monitor dozens or even hundreds of blogs (eg: journalist or commentator) then BlogBridge is well worth an installation. This extremely powerful news reader not only makes it easy to subscribe to news feeds with simple drag and drop or via a URL, but it also provides a wealth of tools to help you manage large numbers of subscriptions with ease. These tools include quick sorting and filtering; keyword highlighting; multiple viewing levels (full, brief, headline only); unread handling (eg: mark as unread, go to next unread etc); show articles (all, unread only, those matching keywords only) and quite a lot more. BlogBridge also helps you synchronize subscriptions across multiple computers - very handy in an office network environment! - and it supports rich text and graphics display too. Another feature we found particularly attractive is the BlogBridge will also help you discover feeds that might be in your area of interest. The way it does this is that lists of feeds on particular topics are supplied by BlogBridge "experts" and once you're using the software, you can take advantage of these lists to find many sites you might otherwise be unaware of. BlogBridge is Java based so it runs equally well on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux if you have Java installed (and this is very likely if you're running a recent version of any of these operating systems - but if you're running an older version you can also get a free copy of the necessary Java files from BlogBridge's site). The software is also Open Source and completely free. Get BlogBridge

 

FeedReader
If you prefer a simple, lightweight but robust news reader with a very short learning curve, then FeedReader may be the perfect news reader for you. FeedReader is a free Open Source aggregator (like BlogBridge, above) that supports all the major syndication formats currently in use (ie RSS and Atom). The software comes pre-configured with hundreds of quality feeds from leading syndicators and you can easily add more. FeedReader is designed to handle hundreds of feeds without any strain and it includes a full arsenal of tools to manage them when they arrive. Apart from sorting, filtering and multiple viewing modes these tools also include an innovative Intelliupdate feature driven by an in-built algorithm that can learn the update frequency of each feed and dynamically trigger it only when needed. We were also impressed by Feedreader's ability to automatically download enclosures and podcasts that are attached to articles; and by the way it allows you to tag articles and to create nested folders. FeedReader will also let you turn any normal feed into a "smart feed" by specifying what information to filter in out out, and then convert it back to a normal feed again (very useful if you want to temporarily track a particular issue - for example, an election result). The software also lets you combine multiple information streams into a single feed. FeedReader runs on Windows (Win98 to XP/2003) and it's very well-regarded. Get FeedReader

 

Google Reader
If you'd prefer to access your news reader online rather than on your PC, Google Reader was developed by the Big G in late 2005 to accomplish this (the software finally made it to beta status in September 2007). Google Reader allows you to subscribe to feeds using either Google Reader's search function or by entering in the exact URL of the RSS or Atom feed you want to include in your news searches. New posts from those feeds are then shown on the left-hand side of the screen and can be ordered by date or relevance, as well as organised with labels. Google Reader's front page lets you see all new items at a glance and you can choose between either a list view or an expanded view of your news items (you can also mark items as either read or unread in the expanded view). Google Reader has a handy search feature that lets you locate items by keywords or other attributes; keyboard shortcuts for all its main functions; and it allows you to import or export subscription lists as an OPML file. Items in Google Reader can also be shared with other Google Talk contacts (if you use Google's Instant Messaging system). Versions of Google Reader also exist for mobile devices that support XHTML or WAP 2.0; for iPhones; and for Wii. Google Reader is a little limited in comparison to some of the other news readers we list here, but against this it's drop-dead easy to learn and it's a great way to get started with news reading if you're mildly spooked by the concept and/or need to do your news reading on the run. All you need to operate it is a free account with Google, any of the popular web browsers (eg: IE6+, Firefox 1.0+, Safari 1.3+ or Google Chrome); and an Internet connection. Get Google Reader

 

Bloglines
If the idea of an online news reader appeals to you but you're nervous about Google knowing even more about you than it no doubt already does, an alternative that's becoming increasingly popular is Bloglines. Like Google Reader, Bloglines is a purely web-based news reader that's completely free to use (all you need to do is register for a Bloglines account). Unlike Google Reader, though, Bloglines can take a wider range of feeds and it will construct a home page out of them for you. Blogline's many features include an all-in-one blog and news feed search that's available in 10 languages (as well as a mobile version that's optimised for handheld computers and portable phones); an inbuilt email subscriptions service to manage your newsletter traffic; in-built package tracking for UPS, USPS and Fed-Ex (useful if you're in the USA); custom weather forecasts; Quick Pick subscriptions to get you up and running quickly and personal suggestions for new subscriptions based on your interests; and easy single-click subscriptions from any other source via a bookmarklet. Bloglines will also send notifications to your browser when new articles arrive and it provides daily "What's Hot" lists to let you know which topics and/or blogs are getting noticed on any day of the week. As with Google Reader, all you need to use Bloglines is a web browser, a Net connection and an account - so your computing platform is irrelevant. Get Bloglines

 

YeahReader
YeahReader is a relatively new news reader from Russia that's been steadily upgraded ever since it made its public debut in early August 2006. It will read news feeds in RSS, RDF and Atom formats (ie all the most popular ones) as well as podcasts, and the program provides all basic RSS reader functionality such as a convenient feed update system, proxy support and pop-up update notification. What particularly interested us though - and what really sets YeahReader apart from other news readers - is that it also includes a built-in blog client that will allow you to quickly write messages to your LiveJournal, Blogger, WordPress or Delicious blog (which is just perfect for bloggers who want to be amongst the first to post a breaking news item!). YeahReader also has OPML support so that you can easily import (or export) your existing news feeds. And it will allow you to export data into HTML, CSV or JS format too (again, very handy for a multitude of uses). YeahReader is completely free for non-commercial use and if you're a corporation you can also buy a custom-branded version of YeahReader from the developers to put out as your own. YeahReader runs on all versions of Windows (from Win95 to XP/2003). Get YeahReader

 

XNews
Finally, Luu Tran's XNews is a widely-used news reader fashioned after NewsExpress (a very popular early newsreader that's no longer being developed). XNews sits at the slightly geekier end of news readers (we don't mean that unkindly) and it features a quick filter; a score file for more advanced filtering; support for multiple servers and identities; support for binaries handling; optional header and article caching and folders for permanent archiving amongst all the standard news reader functions offered by the other programs reviewed on this page. The software is updated from time to time and many old Net hands swear by XNews. Equally, though, some users have reported that the program can sometimes appear to stall when it's performing some of its operations (it doesn't - it just devotes its entire attention to a particular task until it's done). This can be annoying if you're used to a contemporary make-a-click-and-get-some-action multi-tasking environment. Apart from this minor flaw, though, XNews can do some things no other newsreader can - such as its strong support for increasingly obscure binary formats and a remappable keyboard. This is because it has its roots in the days when a news reader meant "something to read newsgroups with" rather than its contemporary meaning (ie "something to read news feeds with"). In fairness, XNews is a light download that's easy to set up and you can get productive with it fairly quickly. It also has can online mamual that you only need to read if you want to explore the program's more obscure capabilities. XNews runs on all versions of Windows from Win95 to XP and it's freeware.
Get XNews

 

This page last updated: 01-Oct-2008

 


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